Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.” Matthew 5:27-37
One of my favorite comedies is the Vicar of Dibley. Jim Trott, played by Trevor Peacock, is very entertaining and constantly saying, " no, no, no, yes." He tends to confuse everyone with hilarious results. We are often confused by people who say one thing and do another, with not comedic but sad and dangerous results. I myself have to be careful what I promise in order to make certain I can deliver. We humans are always big on promises and low on results. It is a spiritual discipline to check our words and actions to make certain we are honoring what we say and caring rightly for the people in our charge.
Jesus continues his sermon on the mount, with challenges to familiar cultural and religious rules. He knows the religious leaders are all too good at following the letter of the law and ignoring the spirit and truth of the law. We are invited by God to take seriously our commitments and words to one another. When we take vows, either religious or in relationships, we are invited to understand how important our words, our vows become.
Today, I ask God to help me honor the depth of my vows as a bishop and serve the people I have been given. May God strengthen each of us with humility and compassion, so that all we do honors the people we serve.